I first became familiar with Nice & Smooth in 1991 with the singles from their sophomore effort Ain’t A Damn Thing Changed, i.e “Hip-hop Junkies”, “How To Flow”, “Cake And Eat It, Too” and the sickest songs in the duo’s catalog “Sometimes I Rhyme Slow”. After reviewing Ain’t A Damn Thing Changed a few months ago, the historian in me wanted to check out where and when it all started for the duo, so I tracked down a copy of their self titled debut Nice & Smooth.
Nice & Smooth was released on the now defunct label Fresh/Sleeping Bag Records, where they were once label mates with EPMD (which makes me wonder how a Nice & Smooth/EPMD collabo would have sounded back in the day). Greg Nice and Smooth B would produce the entire album and also incorporate their DJ and one half of the legendary radio deejay duo The Awesome 2, Teddy Ted into the um, mix.
Nice & Smooth produced a few minor hits which did create a little buzz for the duo but unsurprisingly it didn’t sell a ton of units. I don’t really have anything else to add so lets just get into the album already.
Early Rise – Nice & Smooth start things off with an instrumental that samples the theme song from Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert And The Cosby Kids cartoon, and with all the controversy surrounding that man lately, it once again proves Nasir Jones statement true: time is illmatic. Greg Nice and Smooth B approach this track like they do 99.9 percent of their songs: they both spit a verse full of random rhymes and they throw in a nonsensical hook and song title, since it would be kind of weird to have an album full of untitled songs.
Something I Can’t Explain – Nice & Smooth slow things way down as Smooth B, Greg Nice, and Teddy Ted each take a verse to discuss their feelings about the women in their lives that they have left heartbroken or vice versa. The sappy instrumental sounds like it may have sampled a portion of Heatwave’s “Always And Forever”, and it’s kind of enjoyable, especially on a gloomy day. It’s everything else about the song doesn’t work: the song’s 6 minute length feels like eternity, all three parties lyrics are all over the place, and the uncredited female vocalists singing on the hook are clearly tone-deaf. Furthermore, this was a very odd place to put a song like this in the sequencing. You have to hide these type of songs in the middle of the album. Or even better, leave them off completely.
Perfect Harmony – After a useless acapella singing intro by the trio, a sick up-tempo instrumental kicks in, complete with a bombastic trumpet sample on he hook. Nice and Smooth each spit a verse before they quickly get the hell out of Dodge. Smooth B, who I’ve always considered the sharper lyricist of the two, gets out spit by his partner in rhyme on this one for the first time I can ever remember. Regardless, this song is fire.
We Are No. 1 – Ah, so this is where Nice & Smooth’s relationship with the often off-key group Pure Blend began. Pure Blend and Modesty sing the hook over heavy drums and a sample of Joe Cocker’s “Woman To Woman” record (EPMD would use the same sample later that year for their classic record “Knick Knack Patty Wack” that would introduce K-Solo to the world (who I’ll be discussing very soon, so stay tuned), and years later Dr. Dre’s would also use it for the remix of 2pac’s mega hit and west coast anthem “California Love”. But I digress). Both Greg Nice and Smooth B sound uncomfortable rhyming over it but at least they’re on the same page as they both drop rhymes about getting the ladies. Once again, the song title and hook didn’t really tie in to the song’s content.
No Delayin’ – Over a beautiful piano sample the duo each spit one random but very entertaining verse. Smooth B walks away with this one as he drops one of his best verses of the evening, leaving proof that he is truly underappreciated in the hip-hop game. Teddy Ted scratches in Bob James’ “Nautilus” at the tail end of the song which clashes with the instrumental like a clued up Compton Crip walking through a Piru Blood neighborhood. Other than that small misstep, this was nice.
Funky For You – This was the first single released from Nice & Smooth. The duo take a War sample and turn it into a smooth groove full of good vibes. Greg Nice, like usual, bats first, spilling freestyle rhymes all over the track, before Smooth B swoops in to wrap (or rap) things up turning in one of his more philosophical verses (Mos Def would even pay homage to Smooth B’s verse as he used a portion of this verse and his verse from “Dwyck” on his “Perfect Timing” record from the True Magic album), which sounds nice over this breezy instrumental that just makes you want to cool out in the shade and drink a little lemonade. Classic.
Skill Trade – Over hard drums and an old school break beat Nice and Smooth pick up the pace a bit and get into some more traditional hip-hop shit. This was decent.
More And More Hits – Have I mentioned how it’s almost laughable that the majority of Nice & Smooth’s song titles and hooks have nothing to do with the actual lyrical content of their songs? On this one Smooth B actually sings the hooks about the duo “coming back with more and more hits” but both spit a verse about hooking up with a lady. I like the smooth Mary Jane Girls sample (which Kane also use later the same year on his classic “Smooth Operator”) used for the instrumental. The rest of the song was pretty forgettable, though.
Ooh Child – This is pretty much Nice & Smooth’s ode to their deejay, Teddy Ted. Over a simple drum beat and a vocal sample from the Five Stairsteps’ song with the same title on the hook, Nice and Smooth drop rhymes to praise their legendary deejay as he places a few scratches in between their kind words. Not a terrible song but the production and Nice & Smooth’s verses sound like this may have been recorded a few year prior to the rest of the album.
Hit Me – Before things get started Greg Nice warns the listener that this song contains explicit lyrics. Then he and Smooth B dedicate this to a few of their dead homies before Greg Nice goes into a nonsensical tale about rhyming, singing, a girl, taking said girl to the movies, oral sex, finger bangin’, and he ends is verse smoking a blunt. After listening to this its clear that Greg Nice should never get the keys to a solo joint again. He was actually working on a solo project a few years ago, but I don’t think a full length ever materialize. Based on this song, it may be a good thing that it didn’t.
Gold – Over a simple break beat and the omnipresent hip-hop sample from Barry White’s “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby”, Greg Nice, Smooth B, and Teddy Ted each spit short verses about their love for jewelry. Like “Ooh Child” this one sounds like it was recorded years before the rest of Nice & Smooth.
Dope Not Hype – Over a simple up-tempo break beat Nice & Smooth each spit a verse and peace out like they’re running late for a date with Sanaa Lathan. Greg Nice’s verse was cool but there is a reason Smooth B normally bats last, as he rips his verse and then drops the mic a la Sexual Chocolate before leaving.
Nice & Smooth – Over a simple drum beat and a continuous vocal loop of someone doing a reggae chant (that is bound to get stuck in your head after a few listens) the duo tag team the mic and drop more random bars for the next 4 minutes. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that their hook has to be in the running for corniest of all time.
Dope On A Rope – And just in case you weren’t annoyed to death by the reggae chant from the previous song, are hosts are sure to bug the shit out of you as they bring it back on this song. They also dropped the corny hook in exchange for a garbage one.
Sum Pimped Out – This is nothing more than a glorified shoutout song. Greg Nice and Smooth B start this off by dedicating it to the ladies before Greg takes the next few minutes to shoutout all their peeps. I like the instrumental, which samples James & Bobby Purify’s “I’m Your Puppet”. It would have been nice to hear the duo spit bars over it, though.
Now that I’ve listened to Nice & Smooth repeatedly for the last few weeks, the title to their sophomore effort Ain’t A Damn Thing Change makes perfect sense. Besides the absence of their Deejay Teddy Ted on the second album, Nice & Smooth use the same formula on their debut: random rhymes and song titles with nonsensical hooks. I don’t have a problem with sticking with the game plan if it works, but like Ain’t A Damn Thing Change, the production on Nice & Smooth is spotty and a chunk of the song ideas and lyrics sound uninspired, The album would have went down a lot nicer and smoother had they shaved 5 or 6 songs off of it.